Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Most writers regard the truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use.

Mark Twain

S North
Both ♠ 4 3 2
 10 5
 K 8 7
♣ Q J 8 3 2
West East
♠ K 9 8 5
 8 4
 J 10 9 6
♣ A 10 5
♠ 6
 9 7 6 3
 A 4 3 2
♣ K 9 7 6
♠ A Q J 10 7
 A K Q J 2
 Q 5
♣ 4
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 1 NT Pass
3 Pass 3 ♠ Pass
4 Pass 4 ♠ All pass


Too many competent players boast that they have never read a bridge book in their lives. As someone who works as a writer, I am always surprised at how many basic positions are missed by players who might have encountered that very position in a book. A little learning may be a dangerous thing, but zero learning tends to work even worse.

In today’s deal, South offered a choice of games at the four-level, and North’s return to four spades ended the auction. West led the diamond jack, and South tried to make East’s task as hard as he could when he put up the king.

East won and shifted to a club, hoping somewhat optimistically that his side could take two club tricks, and that West would turn up with a winner in one of the major suits as well.

West won with his ace and returned a club, but it was to no avail. Dummy’s queen was covered by the king and ruffed. When West got in with his spade king, there was no hope for the defense — declarer was in complete control.

East should have reasoned that West was likely to hold four trumps. Instead of leading back the club six, he might have tried broaching clubs by leading the king. Then the defenders would have been in business. Declarer is immediately shortened in trumps on the second round of clubs (which he has to ruff). When West gets in with the spade king, West can force him again by leading the club ace, to ensure a second trump trick for his side.

Did you pass, grateful to be taken off the hook? That would be a very cowardly attitude. This hand is full value for a two-club call. Partner asked you to bid, and you have a reasonable suit and decent values. There is no reason not to dive into the auction to compete the part-score.


♠ 4 3 2
 10 5
 K 8 7
♣ Q J 8 3 2
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Dbl. 1 NT

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog.
Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitNovember 22nd, 2017 at 9:12 am

Seems to me that if S “wants to make East’s task as hard as he could” he would play a small D from dummy at trick one. The clues are all there (S has shown two 5-card majors with better H than S) for E to win the A and play CK and another C, but how many defenders would ever do that?

A V Ramana RaoNovember 22nd, 2017 at 10:42 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
I think declarer can prevail if he plays small from dummy on the diamond lead, winning in hand if east ducks and leading spades top down . West can take his trump trick but South is in control and gets ten tricks. It does not help east to rise with Diamond A on the lead

jim2November 22nd, 2017 at 12:46 pm

A V Ramana Rao –

If East defends as Our Dear Host recommends (win the opening lead with AD, cash KC, lead another club forcing declarer to ruff, then West playing AC when in with KS), how does declarer succeed?

A V Ramana RaoNovember 22nd, 2017 at 2:16 pm

Yes. On that particular defense, south goes down. Sorry – But I posted my comment without reading David’s comment

Bobby WolffNovember 22nd, 2017 at 3:23 pm

Hi David, AVRR, and Jim2,

Actually, the bidding by South was “standard practice’ when he rebid 4 hearts, over partner’s 3 spade preference since South was allowing for a “false preference” to 3 spades (from 3 hearts) with 2 spades and 3 hearts, just in case, the strong hand had 5 spades and only 4 hearts opting for a possible 5-4 holding rather than 5-5.

In those cases the players who hold 5-5 almost automatically rebid the hearts, regardless of the relative strengths of the two suits in order to play, as usual, the longest combined trump fit, not necessarily the strongest.

Here, because of the lack of strength of the overall hand, North had bid 1NT rather than a simple 2 spades, trying to slow partner down, although it would not be my choice, since by merely raising, I do not distort, to show a constructive raise, a method many other players prefer (while playing a forcing 1NT response to a major).

Reason being that if my LHO then comes in the bidding, my hand, because of my weakness, may never get to show mild support, especially if my RHO then raises his partner, which, at least to me, is the worst of the two evils.

In any event and back at the ranch, When East wins the ace of diamonds (and I think it clear, on the bidding to do exactly that since a singleton queen is very much in the air, since South has shown ten major suit cards). When the queen does not appear, or even if it did, it seems clear to me that East’s best (and likely only) hope of defeating the contract is to play West for the ace of clubs and lead the king first in order to get that crucial “force” going, without giving away much, if anything, just in case declarer has a singleton ace.

If I was asked one thing a top level player does that others do not, it would be a close choice between “counting” and “on target imagination”. To me this hand, while including both virtues, is as good example as any, especially on defense, when all four players need to listen carefully to the bidding and, of course make use of that knowledge on defense as well as declaring.

Finally, East’s singleton spade offers great hope that partner has 4 spades and if so, whether West has a major spade honor or, for that matter, a major heart honor, as long as he also has the ace of clubs, certainly a reasonable chance, the “mission of defeating the opponents” rises like the morning sun.

However, depending on the psychological makeup of EW, it will determine whether by going up with the king of diamonds at trick one, (although West led the jack) will be the “tease” to hope East continues diamonds. Granted, while playing against worthy opponents, regardless which diamond declarer plays from dummy at trick one East should rise with the ace and switch to a club, but as David indirectly refers, only one who counts and has winning bridge imagination would select his major honor to be the first one and, a pause for all to think, if holding both would (and the queen of diamonds not falling at trick one) follow that major honor with a small club causing declarer to ruff, hoping to not run into a disastrous 4-1 major suit division, if the key one is alive and well.

BTW, I used this hand’s exact defensive theme while setting up a challenge during my stint as “coaching” (26 years ago) our then junior team’s progress of the necessity of always keeping in mind the bidding while defending and therefore being alert to ways to use both counting and imagination while at the table.

Thanks for listening, if and whether, any are still reading.

slarNovember 22nd, 2017 at 3:47 pm

I feel that opening paragraph is geared to people like me. I’ve read about 10 books – not zero but certainly not 100. In general I’m not seeing that as being the most important thing for me at this time. I feel that I get the most mileage out of:
* daily columns – two per day (your and Frank Stewart’s)
* reviewing every session to see what I and/or my partner can learn/improve
* asking experts when we can’t figure out the best way to handle a hand
I may yet reach the point where lack of pure book knowledge is a problem, but at this point I feel that my biggest problem is failure to perform which is due to a lack of some combination of focus, short-term memory, stamina, and endurance.

Bobby WolffNovember 22nd, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Hi Slar,

If your learning bridge regimen was deemed only average, our beloved game would take over the whole world and by an unparalleled margin.

Almost no one has read 50 bridge books, let alone 100 so let’s immediately cross that exercise off the list. Yes, daily bridge columns seem to be valuable, not necessarily for their content, but rather only to remind everyone that it is educational, mostly entertaining, but, assuredly healthily challenging and very competitive.

By reviewing every session in order to learn/improve (your words) you achieve consistency, without which all bridge partnerships will eventually fail, and asking the local experts, while somewhat random, is still a decent way to go, when only playing in expert games is never available.

Finally, I agree that only book knowledge is too small a goal, but improving short-term memory and endurance will lead up to conquering what I consider your #1 challenge, a total focus on determining yourself what it takes to legally win instead of lose, continuously lessening your overt errors.

Admitting your mistakes to yourself (and, for that matter all who want to hear) is very necessary, and the right start on that has already been done by you, since even the greatest players ever, make many mistakes in almost every session they play, regardless of what they want their students and competitors to think.

Bridge is, if nothing else, a catharsis of what might have been, leading to abject honesty in assessment, a condition we would all be better off to embrace, rather than avoid.

You are on the right track, but you must now, simply carry-on. It will not happen overnight.

Iain ClimieNovember 22nd, 2017 at 6:19 pm

Hi Bobby,

Today’s hand could have a Mollo-esque story with slight changes. Imagine that West is Colin the Corgi (a facetious and annoyingly bright young man from Oxbridge) but he leads the DJ from QJ10x having forgotten to discuss that he prefers Roman leads with his partner. He is facing Karapet, the famously unlucky and gloomy Armenian. After the DJ K and Ace, Karapet thinks the hand through, places declarer with DQx and places the CK on the table with a flourish.

Unfortunately the Rabbit (as declarer) has actually got KQJ9x AKQJx xx A so the post mortem can be imagined; a careless West pulling the wrong card at T1 would have an identical effect and would probably put many good East players into a padded cell. Jim2 never went near Ararat did he? It would explain a lot…



Bobby WolffNovember 22nd, 2017 at 7:31 pm

Hi Iain,

Great story, whether or not it was real (did happen), imaginary, or designed only to poke fun (as both Victor and Skippy) Mollo and Simon”s preferred first names. were prone to do.

BTW, Victor flew from London to Dallas in the mid 1970’s to stay with my wife and me, but write “The Stpry of the Aces”, which he got about 2/3s finished, but because of not having much space for witty, timely and pungent comments gave it up in mid stream as likely not up to his standards and therefore and more importantly for him to not be away so long, from his beloved wife, “Squirrel” whom he truly adored (she was also a great cook).!

Incidentally he “hated” flying and couldn’t wait to get it over with. However his personality as well as his Russian heritage was just, as all of us would suspect, adorable to an extreme.

Too bad Jim2 and his now famous handicap didn’t emerge sooner preventing worldwide recognition, and “just cause”, as well as losing, for some, a believable valid excuse.

jim2November 22nd, 2017 at 8:41 pm

Either an ancestor or the Curse shifted to me upon his passing, or after some great deed.

Iain ClimieNovember 22nd, 2017 at 10:16 pm

Just in case anyone isn’t familiar with the lucckless Armenian, please see:

ClarksburgNovember 22nd, 2017 at 11:51 pm

@ Slar
I can relate!
Same two columns every day, plus Paul Thurston’s in Canada’s National Post.
Always review every session, including opening leads by stronger players.
In bidding, incisive hand evaluation, listening to opponents’ calls, and good judgement are way more important than particular “system” played.
Card play is far more important than bidding; particularly defensive play.
Concentration and focus, counting, and keep feet on the ground.
Learned this overall approach right here, over several years !!
Thanks Bobby !!

Bobby WolffNovember 23rd, 2017 at 11:42 am

Hi Iain,

Thanks for the prompt, which to all who positively respond, will no doubt thoroughly enjoy it.

I, for one, sincerely appreciate all you relate, especially the spoonful of sugar you always serve to make that very pleasant medicine, not only go down, but rise to bridge heights, seldom attained.

Bobby WolffNovember 23rd, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

You seem to have captured, at least IMO, a very progressive routine in which to now grow, and then soon (variable depending on spare time available, quality of bridge surroundings, and, like bridge itself, fortune on being in the right place at the propitious time).

While I am impressed with your various ratings of necessary bridge talents, as you grow, your opinions may tend to fluctuate, at least some, depending on both the development of your own skills and your current partner(s), at that time.

No doubt you are blessed with determination, an excellent work ethic, and above all, at least as you appear to me, a very balanced and sincere approach to at least have a chance, to rise to even greater bridge stature than you can now imagine.

All I can say is that the game itself, is no doubt to me, the greatest overall mind game ever, making this side venture in life (sometimes growing even above the “side” to which I may play down your intention) a remarkable pleasure, built to last past being an octogenarian.

I, of course, worry that the game as we know it, may not survive in the Western Hemisphere long enough for you to have even a chance of having the above happen, but we can only hope that someone, somehow finds a way to maintain what both Europe and Asia have virtually insured by including our wondrous game in their National Educational system. ‘

If the powers that be, have the courage to do so, they will be very pleased with the result, particularly so, since our beautiful mind exercise creates intellectual respect, not discord and competitive derision, among its competitors.
This particular quality will bring diverse people together, as proven through the years by the history of world bridge-sincere friends, developed only because of their mutual high-level love of our fabulous game.

In any event, thank you for your very kind words. No doubt, being appreciated, is what it is all about, and could be a critical lever in bringing together our once united country, sadly going through a horrible period of hate and unceremonious discontent.

Finally-GOOD LUCK!